CIVIC PRIDE: Mary during her term as the last Mayoress of Spenborough from 1973-1974.
CIVIC PRIDE: Mary during her term as the last Mayoress of Spenborough from 1973-1974.

A HUNSWORTH woman who served as the last Mayoress of Spenborough has died.

Mary Sowden, 88, who was in office from 1973 to 1974, passed away at Holme House care home in Gomersal.

MISSED: Mary Sowden.

MISSED: Mary Sowden.

Mary was married to former Alderman Ken Sowden, who was on Spenborough Council from 1961 to 1974.

She was born in Leith, Scotland, in 1924 and grew up in Glasgow. While on holiday in Scarborough she met Ken, who was attending a conference, at a dance at the Spa ballroom.

The couple stayed in touch and met again when Ken went on holiday to Scotland.

Ken said: “It went on from there – I was travelling up to Glasgow as early as I could on Friday afternoons, and coming back on the last train from Glasgow to be home for Monday morning.

“I joked that I couldn’t afford to go on much longer so the best thing was to get married!”

The couple were married in Scotland and honeymooned on the Isle of Man, before moving to Hunsworth, joined later by Mary’s father.

Ken was headteacher at Gomersal C of E School, Heckmondwike Junior School and Birkenshaw Middle School.

He said they decided Mary would not work and would instead make a home for their three children, Peter, Helen and David.

Mary was treasurer of Hunsworth Scout Group and was awarded a Medal of Merit for her service.

She raised funds for many charities, including Guide Dogs for the Blind and Oxfam, and led Hunsworth Ladies’ Fellowship for many years as well as the Hunsworth Over 60s Group. She was a founder member of Hunsworth Community Association and a member of Cleckheaton and District Inner Wheel from 1968.

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding on August 16. They enjoyed family holidays, and Ken and Mary continued to visit Scotland right up to 2007.

Ken said: “Mary was very committed as mayoress, and enjoyed her duties very much – for example, her ‘At Home’ reception in the town hall for the people of Spenborough and the other mayoresses.

“We were invited to the Queen’s garden party, and she was wearing a hat which I think even the Queen Mother stopped a bit longer to admire!

“Mary was very homely – she was quite happy being at home looking after the children. She was an extremely good cook and baker, and enjoyed entertaining very much.

“She was a quiet sort of personality, but she could be quite firm and had very strong principles.

“She was caring, kind and generous, and also very lovable.”
Mary leaves Ken, her three children and six grandchildren.

Mary’s funeral service takes place on Wednesday at Whitechapel Church, Cleckheaton at 1pm, followed by private family cremation.